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Personal Protection Orders

Ayanna D. Neal

A personal protection order or PPO is an order that prohibits an individual from engaging in specific behavior.  There are three different kinds of PPOs.  There is a sex assault PPO that prohibits stalking and assaultive behaviors when there isn’t a domestic relation between the parties and there isn’t two or more instances of stalking or assaultive behavior.  This kind of PPO is for when a person has been convicted of a sexual assault against the person who is asking the court for the PPO, the petitioner, has been convicted of sending obscene material or has threatened a sexual assault or placed the petitioner in reasonable apprehension of sexual assault.  The other two kinds of PPOs are a domestic PPO and a stalking PPO.  A domestic PPO prohibits certain threatening and assaultive behavior when there is a domestic relationship.  A domestic relationship is one in which the parties are married, have a child/children in common, have lived together or have been in a dating relationship.  A stalking PPO prohibits stalking behavior without consideration of the parties relationship if there has been two or more incidences in which stalking has occurred. 

            A petitioner petitions the family division of the circuit court for a PPO. A court can not deny issuing a PPO solely because there isn’t a police report, medical report, a report or finding of an administrative agency, or physical signs of abuse or violence.  A PPO is effective when a judge signs it and is enforceable immediately by law enforcement. A PPO has to be served personally or as it is specified in the order on the person prohibited from stalking, assaultive or sexual behavior, the respondent.  The petitioner or the respondent can file a motion to rescind, extend or modify the PPO within 14 days of the issuance of the PPO.

            If a judge doesn’t grant a PPO, per MCL 600.2950(7), “it shall state immediately in writing the specific reasons it refused to issue a personal protection order.”  An ex parte PPO is issued for not less than 182 days.  A PPO can prohibit the respondent from purchasing or possessing a firearm. 

            A PPO is intended to address an emergency situation as it pertains to a petitioners safety and the need for protection by the state of Michigan A petition to obtain a PPO has to contain persuasive facts as to why the petitioner needs to be protected by the state of Michigan.  Showing a pattern of past violence and an anticipation of future harm coupled with the level of seriousness of the harm is important information that should be included in a petition for a PPO.  Also, dates of harm, threats, content of threats, information regarding medical treatment, if the police were involved, if minor children were present, property damage should all be included. 

            To authorize a domestic PPO the court has to find “reasonable cause” to believe that the respondent might commit one or more prohibited acts under MCL 600.2950(1).  The stalking PPO law doesn’t have the “reasonable cause” standard.  It could be argued the higher standard of “preponderance of the evidence” standard applies for a stalking PPO.  A court has to authorize a sexual assault PPO if the court finds that the respondent has been convicted of a sexual assault against the petitioner.

            If there is not a parent-child relationship between the petitioner and respondent, a person who is between the ages of ten and eighteen can be a petitioner or a respondent in a PPO action.  Michigan Court Rule requires that a minor or legally incapacitated person have a next friend to petition for a PPO.  PPO proceedings involving minors are very different from those involving adults.  For example, PPO violations by minors under the age of seventeen are subject to the Juvenile Code, MCL 712A.18, for dispositional or sentencing alternatives.

            The court has to rule on a petition for a PPO within one business day of the filing date.  A filing fee is not required for a petition for a PPO.  If a person knowingly or intentionally gives a false statement(s) to the court to obtain a PPO they are subject to contempt powers of the court and could even be charged criminally for perjury.  There could also be a defamation action by the respondent in such a situation. 

            A PPO can be enforced with civil and criminal contempt penalties, $500 fine and 93 days in jail. When a respondent has been served with a PPO, the respondent can be arrested without a warrant for violating the PPO.
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